- Yixin’s financing for sales of electric vehicles surged 225% to 1.3 billion yuan in the third quarter, becoming the new growth engine for the car-loan facilitator
- The market for used vehicles, which was slowed by the pandemic, will weigh on the company’s fourth-quarter performance
By Tina Yip
Covid lockdowns hurt many sectors of the Chinese economy this year, but goverment stimulus policies injected fuel into the auto market, benefiting companies that make cars or enable consumers to buy them.
Those moves help to explain how auto finance platform Yixin Group Ltd. (2858.HK) managed to expand its business in the third quarter, despite the dampening effects of the pandemic.
Seeking to accelerate economic recovery, China brought in a raft of policies this year to encourage car ownership, including halving the sales tax on some vehicles and promoting electric vehicles (EVs) in rural areas.
The measures helped Yixin to stay on a growth path after a crackdown on peer-to-peer lending forced the company to move away from direct financing towards facilitating bank loans for car buyers. Under the revised business model, Yixin earns fees from lenders or borrowers, as well as revenues from after-sales services.
Yixin’s total vehicle financing amount rose 9.4% to 13.6 billion yuan ($1.95 billion) in the third quarter from the same period a year earlier, according to business data released last Monday. By vehicle type, the financing total for used cars rose 7.4% to 6.8 billion yuan while the amount for new passenger vehicles increased 11.4% to 6.8 billion yuan, with both categories accounting for half of the combined financing.
Notably, the company’s number of EV-related transactions logged a 174% rise and the amount of financing surged 225% to 1.3 billion yuan, with the help of the government support.
The figures reflect the broader trend of Chinese car sales. Electric vehicle sales jumped 107% in the third quarter from the year-earlier period, a faster growth pace than the industry average, according to data from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. For Yixin, EV financing made up just 8.5% of total transactions and the new energy vehicles are likely to become a strong business driver going forward.
Investors have high hopes for this side of the business because of the incentives to develop and sell new energy vehicles, said Kenny Wen, KGI Asia’s head of investment strategy. The electric cars are also generally more expensive that gasoline vehicles, which is pushing up the company’s total financing tally, he noted.
The upbeat figures were rewarded with a share price rally. Yixin’s stock rose for three trading days after the business update, gaining a cumulative 16.3% to reach a five-month closing high of HK$1.07. But Wen urges caution, saying the momentum was probably magnified by an overall rally in Hong Kong stocks. He predicted that the company’s share price could struggle to break through resistance at HK$1.10 in the near term, after its trading volume fell over the past few days.
Industry figures show that the stimulus measures, as well as the easing of supply chain problems, lifted the Chinese automobile market in the third quarter. Sales of new and used passenger vehicles rose 20% from the year-earlier quarter. As for Yixin, its vehicle financing amount rose 9.4% year on year, but the number of transactions actually edged up a mere 1.4% to 142,000.
Last year, sales of used passenger vehicles in China grew 26%, and Yixin has expanded its presence in the second-hand car market. In the first half of this year, it helped finance the purchase of 150,000 used vehicles, around double the previous year’s total and accounting for 56% of total transactions, up from 32% in the year-earlier period. And the amount of its financing for used vehicles soared 170% to 14.1 billion yuan.
Into the slow lane for used cars
The bad news is that the used vehicle market was badly hit by renewed Covid outbreaks in the third quarter. Car industry data show that sales of used vehicles fell 9% in October from the previous month and 7.2% from the year-earlier period. In the first 10 months, 13.33 million used cars were sold in China, nearly 8% fewer than the same period of 2021. A purchasing managers index for used vehicles stood at only 40.3% in November, down 7 percentage points from the October level and below the 50% level for business expansion, showing the market is under pressure.
Meanwhile, a survey of used car dealers painted a glum picture. Forty percent of companies surveyed reported that their customer flow had fallen by 30% to 50% in November. And more than 15% of businesses suspended operations for more than 60 days in 2022. The respondents were not optimistic about December either, worried about a continuing fall in demand due to cold weather, the pandemic and other factors.
Yixin’s used car business is likely to have struggled in the fourth quarter, dampened by pandemic controls that were not eased until early December. But as Covid constraints are lifted, consumer spending could rebound, and demand for second-hand electric cars looks set to be particularly strong. The company’s used vehicle business is therefore likely to pick up speed early next year, driven by EV momentum.
In the second half of 2020, Yixin launched after-sales services to broaden its business scope. The new business brought in 88.79 million yuan in the first half of this year, a year-on-year rise of 68%. The company did not report its revenue performance in the third-quarter statement but said it had completed 58,000 transactions in its after-market business. That represents a year-on-year drop of 9.4%, but business looks set to recover once pandemic disruption eases.
In terms of valuations, Yixi comes in below its profitable peers. The company’s projected price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio is 9.2 times and its price-to-book (P/B) ratio is 0.4 times, compared to 14.7 times and 1.1 times for Autohome ATHM, while Cango Inc. CANG has a P/B ratio of 0.22 times.
After hitting roadblocks as a direct financier, the company has headed down a new road as a loan facilitator in challenging economic times. Investors will need to watch whether it can navigate a return to the revenue fast lane, fueled by EV demand, as China’s economy pulls out of a period of pandemic controls.